Rush To Judgement

By Scott Tady, Pittsburgh, September 9 2012

PITTSBURGH - They achieved just one Top-40 single. They didn't perform on American television for 30 years. And though eligible since 1999, they've been snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But that hasn't stopped Rush from gaining one of rock's most devout and knowledgeable fan bases.

"Rush has stayed relevant," explained Dave Smith, singer for the Pittsburgh-based Rush tribute band Distant Signals. "Unlike a band who's been 'together' for 35 years but is playing the state fairgrounds 20 years after their last decent album, Rush has adapted to the times, evolved and stayed close to our hearts."

That closeness will be felt again Tuesday when Rush performs at Consol Energy Center -- the 27th time Canada's most potent power-trio has played Pittsburgh.

"They definitely have as loyal fans as you'll find anywhere in rock," said Sean McDowell, afternoon-drive deejay for 102.5-WDVE. "They continue to create quality music, as they are all top-notch musicians, performing very complex tunes live and not making many mistakes either. And there's only three of them doing it! I'm not really a prog-rock guy, myself, but I always enjoy going to a Rush concert because I know I'll get my money's worth."

Their Place In Pittsburgh

The Rush lineup of Geddy Lee (bass, synth, vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitars) and Neil Peart (drums) has been intact for 38 years. Peart was the last to join, playing his first Rush show in July 1974 at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh -- the group's third U.S. show.

"Geddy Lee remembers vividly the first gig with Neil Peart on drums was in Pittsburgh opening for Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann," McDowell said. "Rush didn't even have cases for their gear yet."

Six nights later, Rush returned to Pittsburgh to open for Blue Oyster Cult at the Stanley Theater -- a show they almost missed.

"Someone from their label told me 'I've got a new band from Toronto, and I need you to put them on your show," longtime Sewickley Heights concert promoter Rich Engler said. "But I was like, 'Aw, man, I already have a good support act.' But he was like, 'Please, please put them on your show, I only want a half-hour, and they'll be really happy."

Engler reluctantly agreed and increasingly regretted that decision as the minutes ticked away, and Rush still hadn't shown up to the venue.

"Finally, at like 7:15 for a 7:30 p.m. show, this kid comes running up to me out of breath and says, 'Hey, I'm Geddy Lee, the leader of Rush, and we're here to play.' He said their van had broken down," Engler recalled. "I told him, 'I don't know, it's pretty late,' but Geddy said, 'Yes, but we're just a three-piece band, and we can set up fast.'"

Engler said OK, but they could play just one song.

Lee successfully lobbied for two.

The band ended up playing two-and-a-half, "and they were so grateful that they got to play them," Engler said. "I brought them back two or three more times to the Stanley, and by then people were loving them. Radio jumped all over 'Fly By Night,' -- there was WYDD on Pittsburgh radio then, along with WDVE, and they were both just all over that record."

Rush fans peppered those stations with song requests, making sure the band became a Pittsburgh radio staple.

"You hear about the Kiss Army? That was the Rush Army, and now it includes adults who are lifelong fans bringing their kids to the show," Engler said.

It worked out well for a concert promoter like Engler, who now shares and answers questions about Pittsburgh concert history at his website,

"I never lost money on that band," said Engler, who has a golfing tee time tomorrow with his friend Lifeson, Rush's guitarist.

Rush timeline in Pittsburgh

Aug. 14, 1974 - Civic Arena. Rush's first show with drummer Neil Peart (and third show in the U.S.). Headliners were Manfred Mann and Uriah Heep. Estimated attendance was 11,000.

Aug. 20, 1974 - Stanley Theater. Rush's seventh U.S. show took place just a week later, with the band opening for Blue Oyster Cult.

April 15, 1975 - Stanley Theater. Warm-up act for KISS, touring in support of the "Fly By Night" album.

Dec. 20, 1975 - Civic Arena. Caresses of Steel tour, Opening for Kiss and Mott the Hoople.

April 7, 1976 - Civic Arena. Touring to support the "2112" album. Joined by Bad Company.

March 14, 1977 - Stanley Theater. All the World's a Stage tour. Rush headlined; opening acts were Cheap Trick and Max Webster, a Canadian hard-rock band featuring Kim Mitchell, who a decade later recorded the rock-radio hit "Go for a Soda."

Nov. 22-23, 1977 - Stanley Theater. A Farewell to Kings tour. The opening act was Crawler. The extensive tour also visited the Tomorrow Club in Youngstown and the Wheeling Civic Center.

Jan. 19, 1979 - Civic Arena. Hemispheres tour. Opening act: Starz. Two nights later, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their third Super Bowl.

May 14, 1980 - Civic Arena. Permanent Waves tour. Opening act: Laurie and the Sighs fronted by Philadelphia-raised Broadway singer Laurie Beechman in her short-lived rock 'n' roll career.

May 6, 1981 - Civic Arena. Moving Pictures tour. The set list was consistent throughout the tour, which would indicate that new song "Tom Sawyer" would have showed up a little past the halfway mark.

April 4, 1983 - Civic Arena. Signals tour. Jon Butcher Axis opened.

July 8, 1984 - Civic Arena. Grace Under Pressure tour. Pat Travers Band opened.

Dec. 18, 1985 - Civic Arena. Power Windows tour.

Dec. 16, 1987 - Civic Arena. Hold Your Fire tour.

June 7, 1990 - Civic Arena. Presto tour. Opening act: Mr. Big.

Oct. 28, 1991 - Civic Arena. Stop No. 3 on the Roll the Bones tour. Eric Johnson opened.

June 21, 1992 - Star Lake Amphitheater. Sixth stop from the end of the Roll the Bones tour with Mr. Big back as openers.

April 20, 1994 - Civic Arena. Counterparts tour. Opening act: Candlebox.

Nov. 3, 1996 - Civic Arena. Test for Echo tour.

June 11, 1997 - Star Lake Amphitheater. Continuation of Test for Echo tour.

Aug. 2, 2002 - Star Lake. Vapor Trails tour.

May 31, 2004 - Star Lake. Stop No. 4 on the "30th Anniversary Tour." The 30-song set began with a film intro from comedian Jerry Stiller and included covers of The Who's "The Seeker" and the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul" and Rush's own rap-infused "Roll the Bones," plus the band's big hits.

June 25, 2007 - Star Lake. Snakes and Arrows tour.

July 2, 2008 - Star Lake. Snakes and Arrows tour continued.

Sept. 16, 2010 - Consol Energy Center. Time Machine tour. Following Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga as one of the first concert acts to play the month-old arena.

Sept. 11, 2012 - Consol Energy Center "Clockwork Angels Tour."